You must stop reminiscing at every date.

My wonderful father, at age 76, has won a poetry prize.

Here is the winning poem: “You Must Stop Reminiscing at Every Date,” about my mother. By Donald E. Byrne Jr., published in Red Clay Review, November 2017. Posted with permission.

Read it aloud.


We do the annual calendar together:
I read from the little datebook you have kept,
you copy laboriously with magic marker
names and years of births, anniversaries, deaths,

under numbers you can barely see. Each year
our children are born, baptized, confirmed, receive
first penance and first holy communion. Each year
my parents are born, and die. Your friend, Marydee,

her husband Frank, and daughter Julie
die each year of carbon monoxide; Lisa survives,
and is married. Carl dies, a suicide.
We move to Pennsylvania again, and buy

this house. I get my Ph.d. You have
the tumor removed from your brain and lose your sight.
I become impatient; this is too slow! After
two hours we are only in June. We come to the night

you meet an old flame for drinks; you tell him I am
your only true love – cruelly, you think. Exasperated,
I say, “I’m glad, but if we’re to finish sometime
soon, you must stop reminiscing at every date!”

You look up, wounded, and zip your lips with your thumb
and finger, like a child admonished in school.
But by the end of July you are born again, and dumb
no more; what happened once, happens again — too

much history, compressed already into a year,
to squeeze into an hour. “There are getting to be
more deaths than births,” you say sadly in September.
You linger for our lives’ sakes; I want to hurry

past the certainty this book of days
will forget the last of our deaths — and then will be more,
and less, than even the children who rise from its pages
can remember, without your blind and patient story.



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16 Comments on “You must stop reminiscing at every date.”

  1. De Minimis says:

    Well deserved, that is an amazing poem.

  2. robertdircks says:

    Bravo to your father! It’s wonderful!

  3. jodhansen says:

    Lovely poem. Thank you for sharing it. Congratulations to your father.

  4. Pangolin says:

    That was a beautiful gut punch. All the feels.

  5. Neil says:

    Wow, timing. My mum passed away yesterday. There is a calendar on her kitchen wall full of all the deaths and births and driving tests passed. Each year it was copied out anew and the year counts incremented. I feel a sense of duty to continue, and a strong desire not to, to just forget and let the record stop when she did. There is already a year of painful anniversaries waiting for those of us that are left. Can I choose how much of the past to keep carrying forward? I think I need to travel light for the journey ahead. Please thank your Dad for a beautiful poem.

  6. Dawn says:

    Outstanding, truly.

  7. dawnwolfefreelancewriter says:

    This is outstanding!

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